For the next three days of our journey, we traded sleeping time, one of us keeping watch while the other rested. I was happy with the trust I had gained from Boromir, but was also happy that nothing happened during any of my watches. Though in my heart I knew that the Ruby Blade had incredible power, I couldn't help letting Boromir's words get to me. The Blade had done nothing to help me when I was in danger – it had been no different than any other sword that I had no knowledge of wielding. The flame I had managed to pull from the camp fire was some comfort, but I was not able to do it again when I actually tried.
Often, while Boromir slept, I went over these things in my head, searching my memories of my mother and the Ullia for any clues of how to harness our people's power. If my mind strayed to a loneliness for Faramir, I would quickly push the thoughts away and replace them with considerations about the Ullia and my potential power as a warrior. I would do the same if my eyes stayed too long on Boromir's sleeping face.
When Rivendell finally came into sight, it was more of a relief that I had even expected. All of my life I had dreamed of meeting elves. Though our people had supposedly been born from the union of an elf and a goddess, it was said that the child from that union had joined with the race of men. As far back as any living Ullia could remember, our people had always been men: mortal and not unusually fair or agile.
“ Here we are at last,” Boromir said as we rode toward the gates of Rivendell. “ Is it as you imagined it?” he asked me, smiling at my awestruck gaze.
“ No,” I said, shaking my head. “ This is beauty beyond my imagination.”
Though it was fall, and the leaves on the trees surrounding Rivendell were yellow, the landscape was still indescribably gorgeous. Buildings made from the white stone of the cliffs sat looking peacefully down at us, their many arches lit with the early morning light. Waterfalls cascaded down behind the elvish dwellings, and birds twittered in the trees, greeting the rising sun. As Boromir and I rode into Rivendell, I was met with a feeling of incredible peace and comfort.
“ What exactly is your business here?” I asked Boromir as we rode up a hill toward the regal buildings. I knew that Denethor had sent him, and I hoped that Gondor's steward had no foul plans for this pristine place. I knew how selfish Boromir's father could be.
“ The elves have a weapon that Gondor greatly needs,” was all Boromir would tell me. We were met by a pair of elvish guards, and Boromir greeted them and told them that he had been sent by the steward of Gondor, and wished to have council with Elrond.
“ Many are seeking council with Lord Elrond at this time,” one of the guards answered. I stared unabashedly at him as he spoke – he was indeed as fair and full of quiet pride as all of Faramir's books had described the elves to be. They asked Boromir, coolly, for his name, so that they could ask permission for his entry from Elrond.
“ I am Boromir, son of Denethor, steward of Gondor,” he said proudly. “ And this is my wife, Lydia,” he added. The elvish guards looked at me, and I dipped my head. I had not bathed for three days, and was wearing man's clothing. The two of them looked more like regal women than I did.
One of the guards went to seek Elrond's approval, and returned to tell us that we would be allowed to stay in Rivendell and attend a council with Elrond the following morning. Boromir thanked them, and they led us to our temporary quarters. My breath was taken away with the beautiful bedroom we were brought into – the sun had risen, and soft white light pored into the open room, which looked out onto a crashing waterfall and the forest with its golden leaves. There was one large bed in the center of the room, and even though we had woken only a few hours before, I wanted to dive into it as soon as I laid eyes on it. The sheets were fluffy and white, and the headboard was beautiful, ornately carved wood.
“ This place is enchanting,” I said when the guards had left us, walking to the arched windows and looking out over the grounds of Rivendell. A sweet breeze moved past me, and the morning sun warmed my face. Boromir walked behind me, placing his hands around me on the ledge, looking out over the landscape himself. The nearness of him made my heart race, and, though I hated to admit it, I was glad for it.
“ We have been invited to a banquet tonight,” he said. “ I hope you brought a proper dress along with you.”
“ I did,” I said, having fully expected a royal reception when we reached Rivendell.
“ These elves live in a dream world,” Boromir said, and I heard resentment in his voice.
“ I am sure they will sympathize with Gondor's troubles and lend you whatever weapon you need,” I said, half turning toward him.
“ We shall see,” Boromir said, the tone of his voice betraying his doubt.
“ What shall we do today, then?” I asked, walking away from him though I didn't want to. I was terribly confused by my desire for Boromir. I did not love him like I did Faramir, and I knew I never would. My longing for him was born only in my body, I decided, and I pledged to try and fight it.
“ I mean to spend the day sleeping and eating,” Boromir said, taking off his gloves and tunic. “ You can do whatever you wish. You will be safe in Rivendell – you could wander the gardens if you like.”
His suggestion made me think of my many walks with Faramir through the gardens of Minas Tirith. It made me sad to think of walking alone.
“ You won't come with me?” I asked him as he pulled off his shirt.
“ Maybe in a little while,” he said. “ Right now I am going to sleep.” He had taken the second half of the watch the night before, as he usually did.
When Boromir was asleep, I went to my pack and pulled out the one dress I had brought with me. It had been my favorite in Gondor, a fine material with a rich red dye. I started to put it on, then realized I should take a bath first. I looked around the room but could see no basin for bathing. I walked to the door and peeked out, searching for someone who could tell me where the baths were. I walked down the corridor but found no elves. Ahead of me, I saw two young boys walking down the corridor, laughing together and eating apples. They did not seem to be elves, and as they grew closer I saw that they were not even boys.
“ Excuse me?” I called, and they looked up at me.
“ Why, hello!” one of them said, beaming up at me. Once they were standing before me I realized what they were – hobbits!
“ Ah, good day,” I said, taken off guard by their very existence. And what were they doing in Rivendell? “ I was looking for the baths,” I said, embarrassed.
“ The baths?” the second one said. “ We'd love to help you, miss, but we're lost ourselves!” At this they both started laughing again. I did not see what was so funny, but could not help smiling at their cheer.
“ We'll try to find our bearings together, then,” the first one said, taking my hand. The second hobbit took my other hand, and they led me through the halls of Rivendell this way. I was a bit put off with their quick familiarity, but then realized this was only the sentiment of a lady of Gondor that had been taught to me. A Ullia would not think twice about taking the hand of a stranger in need. At this thought I relaxed a bit.
“ Care for some apple?” one of them offered, proffering his half-eaten piece of fruit.
“ Er, no thank you,” I said.
“ I'm Merry, by the way,” the hobbit to my left announced.
“ And I'm Pippin,” the other said, with a mouth full of apple.
“ Good to meet you both,” I said. “ I'm Lydia.” As I introduced myself we peered into a large room. It seemed to be a library; definitely not the baths.
“ What brings you to Rivendell on this fine morning?” Pippin asked me.
“ I'm here with my husband,” I said. “ He is Boromir, son to the steward of Gondor, and he seeks council with someone called Elrond.”
“ Ah, Elrond!” Merry said. “ We've met him, though we weren't really properly introduced. He's been healing our friend.”
“ Healing your friend, hmm?” I said. “ Is that why I've found hobbits dwelling in Rivendell?”
“ Oh, no,” said Pippin. “ There's much more to it than that --”
“ Enough, Pip!” Merry said, cutting him off and giving him a look.
“ Oh, right!” Pippin said, looking up at me again. “ It's a secret.” Merry rolled his eyes, and I laughed.
“ Merry, Pip!” someone called, and we all whirled around to see another hobbit at the end of a corridor we had just passed through. This one was slightly larger than the other two, and had a mop of strawberry blond hair.
“ Oy, Sam!” Pippin called, waving. “ Look what we've found!” he said, pointing to me. I waved, feeling silly.
“ What are you two playing at?” Sam called back, frowning. “ Come quick, Mr. Frodo's woken up!”
“ Frodo!” Pippin said gleefully, flying down the hall and dropping his apple rind as he did. Merry turned to me before running off himself.
“ Sorry, Miss Lydia,” he said, “ Our friend is healed, it seems, and we must go. Nice meeting you!” he added as he ran off.
“ Ah, you too!” I called as the three of them disappeared around a corner.
When the hobbits were gone I walked the halls alone, and eventually came to the baths. They were outdoors, in a garden. An elf stood at the entrance to them, and he gave me a small, formal smile.
“ May I assist you?” he asked.
“ I was wondering if I might have a bath,” I said shyly, not knowing what the protocol was. “ I am staying here with Boromir, my husband --”
“ I know,” the elf said, cutting me off before I had to explain Boromir's lineage and origin. “ Lady Lydia,” he said.
“ Yes,” I answered. “ Word travels quickly in Rivendell.”
“ We have been informed of all the arriving guests,” the elf said, his expression placid and his tone even and cool. “ The baths are through this door. You will be assisted inside.”
I did not know what he meant by this, but went wordlessly into the garden that held the baths. They were pools of water that were fed by small waterfalls, and were surrounded by late blooming flowers. Two elf maidens were reclining by one of them, and they stood and walked to me when I entered.
Without a word the two undressed me, and then let down my braids. They took my hands and led me to one of the baths, and I thanked them, blushing furiously at their presence. I slipped under the water, which was neither warm nor cool, but felt perfect on my skin. Once I was in the bath the elf maidens poured in perfumes and dropped in flower petals. The ceremony made me think of my wedding day, only this was much more peaceful and serene. The elf maidens wet my hair for me, and washed it with some sweet smelling soap. They then disappeared. I turned and looked around the baths. I could see other lagoons and waterfalls, but the bathers were hidden from me, if they were there at all.
I stayed in the bath for a long time, shutting my eyes and basking in the sun through the garden's trees. The scent of the water was magnificent, and a feeling of inner and outer beauty coursed through me. I did not consider myself to be particularly beautiful, and had expected to feel awkward and ugly in the presence of elves. But the elf maidens had only comforted me with their beauty, their fair faces increasing the feeling of peace in my heart.
The elf maidens returned after some time, and offered me two pale hands. I took them and climbed out, though I wanted to stay longer. They dried me with soft towels of a material I had never felt before, and then draped a robe around my shoulders. I looked around for my clothes.
“ Where are my things?” I asked, my heart rate increasing when I could no longer spot the Ruby Blade.
“ Your clothes are being washed,” one of the maidens told me. “ And here is your blade,” she said, producing it for me. I breathed a sigh of relief and clutched it to me.
“ That is a very ancient sword,” she said. “ Full of sad memory. It bears a guilt. Many have died to protect it.”
“ Do you have any notion of how to wield it?” I asked her, embarrassed at the question. She shook her head.
“ Only a Ullia could tell you this,” she said, her voice like the surface of a smooth pool.
“ Can you not sense that I am Ullia?” I asked, unsure of the powers of the elves. She gave me a tiny smile.
“ I can, in your devotion to the blade,” she said.
“ I am the last of my people,” I said, hugging the sword to my chest. “ There are no Ullia left to tell me how to use it.”
“ You underestimate the blade,” the elf maiden said, smiling and walking away. I wanted to call out to her and ask her what she meant, but the second maiden was leading me back to the door of the bath.
“ Have you no other clothes?” she asked me.
“ I have a gown,” I said. “ Thank you. But, ah – how do I get back to my room?” The elf maiden laughed, and I could not help but think that she was laughing at me. I followed her directions and slipped back into our room, glad that no one spotted me walking the halls in the robe. When I got inside the room Boromir was still asleep in the bed. I walked again to the balcony and looked out over the land of Rivendell. I had meant to get dressed when I returned, but the fine material of the elven robe was so lovely that I did not want to take it off just yet.
I climbed into the large bed, deciding to take a nap until Boromir woke. I could not wait to tell him about what I had seen while he slept – three hobbits and several elves. At first I had in mind to tell him to go and have a bath himself, but then I found myself perturbed by the idea of those elf maidens washing my husband. I could not help but grin at the irony. Boromir allowed me so much – by every right he could demand that I lie with him as a proper wife. And yet he allowed me to pine for his brother. Could I not allow him a moment's pleasure in the hands of a few disinterested elf maidens? Still, the idea of it bothered me.
I was too excited by the events of the day and too fond of looking out at the view from our bed to sleep. But before long I found my eyes wandering from the view to Boromir beside me. He was sleeping, shirtless, turned toward me with an arm around his pillow. I watched his chest rise and fall with his breath, watched his face, which was calm and placid now that we were in Rivendell.
As the sun rose higher in the sky, I grew bored, and longed to talk to someone. I thought of waking Boromir, but I knew that he would only dismiss my fascination with the elves and hobbits as a childish fancy. I wished for Faramir's company. I knew he would have taken the same delight that I did in the sights of Rivendell, and it made me sad that he could not behold them. I allowed myself to dream about what things would have been like if Faramir were here with me instead. He would not have been able to sleep for his own excitement, and he would have traveled with me to the baths. I sunk into a fantasy about the two of us soaking together there, how his wet hair would have clung to his cheeks the way his brother's did.
I fell into a sweet sleep then, my fantasies melding into earnest dreams. My sleep was deep, peaceful and indulgent, and I only woke when I felt myself being gently shaken. Coming out of a dream about Faramir, I thought for a moment when I woke that I was looking up into his face. But it was Boromir looking down at me.
“ Wake up, little wife,” he said softly, the tenderness in his voice making me sad. I looked up at him, yawned and blinked. Behind him I saw that the sky had already gone ablaze with the sunset.
“ I have slept longer than I meant to,” I said, rubbing my eyes. I was disappointed with the missed chance to explore Rivendell further.
“ I did the same,” Boromir said. “ This enchantment you speak of seems to inspire drowsiness in men.”
“ I think it's marvelous,” I said, reaching up to tuck a stray strand of hair behind his ear. “ You finally slept peacefully.”
“ Yes,” Boromir said, still staring down at me. “ It was a good sleep, I will admit. And better when I woke to find you lying beside me.”
I blushed. I did not know what to do. Boromir seemed to want to kiss me. I hated myself for wishing that he would.
“ What is this you wear?” he asked instead, touching my robe.
“ Given to me by the elves,” I said. “ I do not think to keep. I went to have a bath in their garden. I would recommend it to you,” I added, though I still did not like the idea of Boromir being tended to by the beautiful elf maidens who seemed to know more about the Ruby Blade than I did.
“ I'm afraid I no longer have time for a bath,” Boromir said. “ I shall have to wait until tomorrow. The banquet will begin shortly. I woke you so that you could prepare yourself.”
“ Ah,” I said. “ I suppose we should both get ready.” But neither of us seemed willing to move. Boromir laid a hand on my stomach, and I held my breath.
“ Lydia,” he said. “ You confuse me.”
“ I confuse myself,” I said, breathless. At this Boromir moved away, sliding off of the bed and standing. I was both disappointed and relieved.
“ Forgive me,” he said, shaking his head. “ That scent is intoxicating.”
“ It is something the elves used in my bath,” I explained, turning from him to dress. “ And there is no need to ask for my forgiveness. I am your wife, after all.”
Without even bothering to look behind me, I dropped my robe onto a chair and slid into the gown I had laid out earlier. I sat at a dressing table in the room to put my hair up, and saw Boromir in the mirror behind me, his cheeks flushed. I knew then that he must have seen me. My hands shook as I pinned my hair up. I did not know what I was doing. I thought of how heartbroken Faramir would be if he knew. Of course, he was already heartbroken, I reminded myself. He was already certainly assuming the worst.
The banquet that evening was beautiful, and attended by many elves and a few dwares, men and hobbits. I recognized Mithrandir, and he nodded to me when he saw me staring at him. I wanted very badly to speak to him about the Ruby Blade, but he was not free during the feast, talking quietly with the elf Boromir identified as Elrond throughout the meal. Boromir and I sat far from the elvish royalty at the table, near the dwarves and hobbits, and I was perfectly happy this way. The elves were nice to gaze at, but the others – particularly the hobbits – were far more amusing to eat and drink with.
“ This is our friend Lydia,” Pippin said, introducing me to two other hobbits who sat near he and Merry.
“ You made friends today, hmm?” Boromir whispered in my ear, and I bit away a grin.
“ I was not aware that I was considered a friend,” I whispered back, as I waved to the hobbits that Pippin introduced as Sam and Frodo. I was happy with the hobbits' friendly demeanor, though. Many of the others at the table seemed to be drawn with worry. Even the hobbit they called Frodo did not look quite as cheerful as the others.
At length the feast ended, and I was happy despite the fact that it was a delightful meal, because I was very tired. Boromir did not seem tired, though, and asked me to walk with him after we left the feasting hall.
“ I want you to see something,” he said. I followed him through the moonlight corridors of Rivendell, and when he tried to hook his arm through mine as he always had, I took his hand instead.
Boromir led me into a dark and solemn hall with few windows. It was lit by some low-burning candles, and appeared to be empty. He led me to a painting on the chamber's wall. It depicted a man holding a broken sword in the face of a dark figure in impressive armor.
“ This is Isildor,” Boromir told me, beholding the painting reverently. “ You have heard of his deed, I'm sure?”
“ Yes,” I said. “ The Ullia were not so far removed from the world of men that they did not tell his story.” I looked at the menacing figure Isildor faced in the painting and recognized it as the dark lord Sauron. I had never beheld an image of him before.
Boromir sighed, looking at the painting. He turned and his eyes fell on a statue in the middle of the room. It was a statue of a woman, whose outstretched hands held the broken shards of a sword. Boromir's breath caught. I noticed a man sitting in the shadows behind the statue, with a book in his hands.
Boromir walked to the sword, an awkwardness filling the room as he noticed the man in the shadows himself.
“ Forgive me,” Boromir muttered. “ I did not see you there, friend.”
“ The men of the south are welcome here,” the stranger said.
“ You are here to seek council with Elrond?” Boromir asked him. The stranger nodded tersely.
“ I came with Gandalf,” he explained. “ You might know him in Gondor as Mithrandir.”
I stood back, and wondered if this stranger could arrange an audience with Gandalf for me.
Boromir walked then to the shards of the sword, and admired them with awe.
“ Narsil,” he said under his breath. He reached out and picked up the largest piece, still connected to the handle. He ran his finger along the blade, and a spot of blood appeared.
“ Still sharp,” he muttered. The stranger who came with Gandalf still stared at him, silent.
“ It is nothing more than a broken heirloom,” Boromir said at once, tossing the sword back into the statue's hands. It clattered to the ground as he turned to leave, but he did not turn to pick it up, only pushed past me and walked out of the chamber, as if forgetting I was there. I frowned after him, then turned back to the stranger. He had risen and was placing the fallen shard of Narsil back in its place.
“ You say you came with Mith – Gandalf?” I asked him timidly.
“ Who asks me so?” the man said, approaching me. I shrank.
“ I am Boromir's wife,” I said.
“ And for what reason does Boromir's wife seek Gandalf the Gray?” the man asked me. His piercing eyes made me nervous.
“ Who asks me so?” I returned smartly. He raised his eyebrows.
“ Only a Ranger from the west,” he said. “ Some call me Strider.”
“ If you would, Strider,” I said, backing away. “ Please tell Gandalf that Lydia of Gondor seeks his counsel. I hope he will remember me. It has been years since we last spoke, and I only met him briefly.”
“ I will pass along the message,” Strider said. “ And admit that I am still curious about your business with him.”
“ Then you remain curious,” I said, “ Good night.” With that I left the chamber, feeling his eyes on me as I went. I had the strangest feeling that the Ranger suspected me of something. His stares had seemed accusatory, especially when he had beheld Boromir.
Boromir. He had seemed upset when he had left the room that held Narsil's shards. I was certain that it reminded him of the heavy burden that his father had placed upon him. To ensure the safety of Gondor – many would call it an impossible task, while the enemy reigned in the east.
I went back to our room and found it empty. I left and walked through the corridors of Rivendell, past glowing candles and stragglers just leaving the feast. I went down a flight of stairs and out into the gardens, which were empty and flooded with moonlight. I could hear the sound of the waterfalls that surrounded Rivendell as I walked through the trees and flowers, and it would have been soothing, but I was worried about my husband's whereabouts. What had that strange energy that passed between he and the Ranger meant?
At last I found him in the far end of the garden, sitting on a stone bench and looking out over a cliff at the river below. I walked to him, and he turned at the sound of my footsteps.
“ Lydia,” he said with a slow smile, reaching for me. “ I am sorry that I left you. But the air in that room seemed suddenly tight.” I walked to him and put a hand on his shoulder, and his arm went around my waist. I looked out at the view of the river, the moon reflected in waves in its surface.
“ Did you know that man?” I asked him.
“ No,” Boromir said. “ He was only a Ranger. But he had an odd sort of look. I did not like the way he lingered there in the dark.” He looked up at me. “ He did not bother you, did he?” he asked.
“ He didn't,” I said, shaking my head. “ I asked him about Mithrandir, and he asked me a few questions of his own and offered me no information.”
“ Mithrandir,” Boromir muttered, looking up at me. “ Why did you ask about him?”
“ I want him to help me learn how to wield this blade,” I said, reaching behind me to touch the Ruby Blade. It had come with me to dinner, and I had gotten many odd looks for wearing a sheath around my gown. But I would rather be regarded as odd than leave the blade unguarded.
“ I wish you would forget that sword,” Boromir said, looking out over the water. “ I wish you would let go of this idea that you might become some sort of warrior.”
“ Why?” I asked, my hand falling from his shoulder. “ Because I am a woman?”
“ No,” Boromir answered. “Because you do not understand. Battle is not something that one who does not bear its responsibility should want to seek.” He looked down at his hand, and the finger that Narsil had pierced. A drop of blood still sat there.
I reached down and lifted Boromir's hand to my lips. I kissed his finger, and licked his blood off of my lips. He stared up at me, perturbed.
“ I am no lady of Gondor,” I said, staring down at him. “ My mother was a warrior, and so shall I be one day.”
“ Your mother died for that sword,” Boromir reminded me. “ I will be dead before I allow you to suffer the same fate.”
I turned from him then and stormed away. I expected him to follow me, but he did not. I climbed the stairs and found our room without much difficulty, and shut myself inside, falling against the door.
I did not want to think about Boromir's death. I had spent far too many hours worrying over Faramir's. I knew that it was entirely possible that I would lose both of them in the fight for Gondor's safety. Sometimes I hated Gondor for it. Selfishly, I could not imagine all of its citizens lives, all of its land, all of its culture as worth the lives of the men that I loved. Since Ywavine's betrayal, the brothers were all that I had left in the world.
All that I had left – except for the blade. I slid it off my back and examined it in the moonlight, wondering if Boromir was right. I did not genuinely want to embroil myself in war. Why was I so bent on learning how to use the sword, then?
Tired of its burden, I laid the sword by the fireplace in the room. I took off my gown and hung it over the chair. I put on my nightgown and climbed into the warm, welcoming bed, tired in many ways. As soon as my head hit the pillow I fell into a shallow sleep.
I woke to the feeling of the bed sinking under Boromir's weight. I rolled to him, half-asleep, unthinking. I clung to his side, pressing my face against his bare chest. His arms went around me, pulling me into the heat of his body. I sighed in relief, finally in my husband's arms, and placed a small, sleepy kiss on his collarbone.
In my dream that night I woke in Faramir's arms. In my dream I walked down a long, flower laden aisle to Faramir, who waited for me. In my dream the citizens of Gondor cheered as we were pronounced man and wife, and I jumped into his arms and kissed him. He spun me, laughing, and Denethor cried with pride. In my dream, Denethor forgave Faramir for the crimes he had never committed. In my dream, Faramir wept with relief.
In my dream, as Faramir carried me to our wedding bed, a tiny flicker of concern broke the placid surface of the scene.
Boromir was no where to be found. Where is Boromir? I asked as Faramir laid down beside me. Where is your brother?
But no sound came out of my mouth. I tried to speak, tried again to ask Faramir where Boromir was, tried to tell him that I was worried. But I could not.
I could not have both of them, even in my dream.